U.S. Secretary of Defence James Mattis warned NATO member states on 15 February that Washington will ‘moderate’ its commitments in the alliance if they do not increase their military expenses.
«No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defence of Western values,» Mattis said in his announcement to NATO colleagues.
«America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defence,» he added during his first meeting with NATO colleagues in Brussels.
Mattis had previously announced that NATO «remains a fundamental bedrock for the United States and for all the transatlantic community, bonded as we are together».
«I am here to listen to my fellow ministers, to have an open conversation among friends and allies about where we’re going and our shared level of commitment,» he said.
Mettis said that US President Donald Trump’s administration expects allies to increase defence expenses.
Only five NATO member states allocate no less than 2% of GDP to defence. These countries are USA, Greece, Estonia, UK and Poland. Latvia and Lithuania intend to reach this level next year.
NATO member states have expressed concerns about Trump’s trust in the alliance, as he has called NATO an ‘obsolete’ organization. He has also expressed a more tolerant position towards Russia.
Trump’s advisor for national security matters Michael Flynn stepped down from his post this week, causing a degree of shock. Flynn decided to step down because he had reported misleading information regarding his contacts with Russian officials.
American media reported that before Trump became president, Flynn had private contacts with Russian ambassador in USA Sergei Kislyak. The two had discussed US President Barack Obama’s plans to establish new sanctions against Moscow and that the new president would employ a gentler position in this regard.
NATO member states are worried that other officials associated with Trump’s campaign may have had contacts with Moscow.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that USA has the right to request other member states to increase their defence expenses. He added that it is their main priority.
Stoltenberg noted that the alliance stopped reducing its budget in 2015 and had increased its budget by 3.8% in 2016. He admits the budget has to be increased more.
The also emphasized that the Flynn scandal will not increase concerns among NATO member states. He is confident that the main message to come out of the Brussels meeting will be the message regarding Trans-Atlantic unity.
Mattis also said Flynn’s decision to step down will not affect USA’s stance in the NATO matter.
Mattis also offered words of praise to NATO’s support of US troops in Afghanistan, calling it the most successful alliance in military history. It is expected that Mattis will ask allies to increase troop deployment in Afghanistan.
New York Times reported this week that Russia may have breached Treaty on medium-range nuclear weapons by recently deploying a new cruise missile on its territory.
Similar to the US Department of State, Stoltenberg said he would not comment intelligence matters. He did say, however, that any non-compliance with the treaty from Russia’s side would create concerns for NATO.